Doing Agile Practices and Techniques the Right Way

by | Oct 31, 2015 | Project Management

Being agile or adopting best agile practices is all about being adaptive to the environment, the situation, the industry, and the product that is being worked on by re-assessing the adoption of plans.

 More often than not, we get to hear people associating either usage of an Agile PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) tool or following certain practices as being “Agile”. However, there is a complete paradigm shift between doing the practices (or following if you want a better word) to “being” agile.It is a mindset change. It is the mind that matters, rest of it does matter to an extent only.

There is no agile training that does not begin with the Agile Manifesto, Agile Values & Agile Principles. However, it is seen that the essence behind them is forgotten as the teams get involved into the grind of planning and execution.

Many a times, the teams end up “doing” Agile. They adopt the various practices and techniques as they have learnt it and follow them religiously by the book oblivious of the fact that it is the mindset and the culture of the team that needs to be Agile for a longer haul.

Doing Agile could be having regular daily standups at the stroke of a clock, planning meetings every 10 days, demos, retrospectives, setup of daily and nightly builds, integrating at milestones and many other good practices (deliberately avoiding best practices).

These can definitely be good for the team but they are still in the mode of following the practices and techniques. Being agile, however, is all about being adaptive to the environment, the industry, the product that is being envisioned and being worked on.

Unless there is a concerted effort to take in the feedback and be nimble, the teams can be doing all the ceremonies specified in the various Agile Methodologies but fail to deliver on the core need – the value.

Agile by itself does not prescribe anything. It is up to the teams to iterate fast, fail fast and be able to deliver the best value for the customer.

Additionally, principles such as Lean help in continuously eliminating waste in software development that the teams can leverage and make faster turnarounds to the deliverable.

Couple of waste identification and removal techniques that the teams can focus on are: reduce hand-offs, avoid gold-plating, reduce partially done work, reduce task switching, eliminate or reduce waiting times and most essentially, prevent defects.

Being agile is beyond just following the practices and techniques. It is the behaviors, beliefs and the values that the team members bring to the table. Couple of examples could be that the teams focus on continuous improvement, look for opportunities to learn and show the willingness to take on more responsibilities within and beyond their comfort zone.

Teams should also be willing to take calculated risks and be able to stand up for mistakes and be accountable. Team members develop the courage to speak up and also question the status quo, experiment and be open to explore the unchartered territory, shoulder to shoulder.

Most importantly, imbibe the principles of Agile and live by them.

Agile is also not a single pill that can be panache for the issues faced by the teams. The teams can be doing Scrum, following the XP practices and still be delivering lower than what is expected. The teams need to elevate from doing to being agile.

It is how the teams adapt and leverage the practices and techniques than be a victim of them decide the course of being agile decides how they move from doing to being.

Satish Rajagopalan, CISA, ITIL Foundation
CEO & Founder at Spearhead EduOnline Pvt Ltd. (the company that owns and operates ApnaCourse.com). He holds a btech in Computer Science, an MBA in Strategy and Entrepreneurship and a post graduation in Finance. Read More.

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